PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

A veteran Riverside County prosecutor seeking to unseat his boss in the June election will announce today the official start of a countywide campaign blitz.

Deputy District Attorney Mike Hestrin, 43, is contesting D.A. Paul Zellerbach's bid for re-election, pointing to increases in violent crime, low morale among line prosecutors and the need for even-handed leadership as reasons to replace the county's top prosecutor.

Hestrin, a resident of Temecula, declared his candidacy last spring and has since garnered endorsements from every local law enforcement organization in the county.

The 220-member Riverside County Deputy District Attorneys' Association endorsed him in what was just shy of a unanimous vote last May.

Hestrin, who began his prosecutorial career in 1998, has argued that Zellerbach is a soft-on-crime, ego-driven D.A. who promotes loyalists to key positions in the agency, putting the public's safety at risk.

Zellerbach, 61, of Riverside has countered that Hestrin engages in hyperbole to get his message across and conveniently ignores positives that the incumbent has brought to the office.

According to Zellerbach, the backlog of untried felony cases that he inherited from his predecessor which critics blamed for cramming court dockets and forcing the county to at one point suspend civil trials has been cleared, relations with the defense Bar have improved and the D.A.'s office is now operating in the black.

Hestrin will be joined today by Palm Springs Police Officers Association, President Sgt. William Hutchinson, Riverside Police Officers Association, President Sgt. Brian Smith and Riverside Sheriffs' Association President Investigator Robert Masson.